DON'T MISS : Talking Africa Podcast – Nigeria: The lingering roots left by Britain's looting and killing

Caricatures of the prophet Muhammed: Africa enflamed by Macron’s hard line

By Damien Glez
Posted on Thursday, 5 November 2020 13:17, updated on Monday, 9 November 2020 16:22

After crossing the Middle East, anger at the publication of the cartoons of the Prophet of Islam has spread to the Maghreb, and now to sub-Saharan Africa.

“Anti-French sentiment”: the phenomenon described by observers over the past few months is difficult to measure in Mali, currently in the grip of its own difficult transition.

But a demonstration held in recent days was enough to give the supporters of Operation Barkhane – France’s military operation in Mali – pause for thought

At the call of the High Islamic Council of Mali (HCIM), and on the occasion of Mohammed’s birthday, 5,000 Muslim faithful demanded an apology from President Macron, after he defended the right to caricature the Prophet.

This Malian complaint is just one piece in a domino of discontent that has spread, country after country, faster than a novel coronavirus.

READ MORE French product boycott: Is North Africa also getting on board?

A few weeks ago, the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo re-published the Danish cartoons of 2005. Professor Samuel Paty was beheaded in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine for showing some of the drawings to his students, and the trail of gunpowder crossed the French borders.

“Rabid campaign” against Islam

Instrumentalized by an opportunistic Turkish president, a wave of indignation called for a boycott of the Laughing Cow/Vache Qui Rit cheese and other French products in the Middle East.

The northern fringe of the African continent entered the fray: Algiers denounced a “rabid campaign” against Islam; Morocco’s Foreign Ministry criticized the “rabid campaign” for its “lack of respect” for Islam.

The Mufti of Tripoli organized a demonstration; the Tunisian deputy Rached Khiari – who has since been the target of an investigation by the anti-terrorist prosecutor’s office – asserted that the beheaded teacher should “assume the consequences” of his lessons.

And sub-Saharan Africa now follows suit: the HCIM declared that “France and the French have crossed the line” by touching “the untouchable”.

Hundreds of Somalis protested against France in the streets of the capital on 29 October.

Mauritania expressed its “indignation”; the Federation of Islamic Associations of Burkina affirmed that insulting a “religious conviction cannot be freedom of expression”.

In Senegal meanwhile, the Rassemblement des Sénégalais contre l’islamophobie (Rally of Senegalese against Islamophobia), for its part, is calling for a march on November 7…

Understand Africa's tomorrow... today

We believe that Africa is poorly represented, and badly under-estimated. Beyond the vast opportunity manifest in African markets, we highlight people who make a difference; leaders turning the tide, youth driving change, and an indefatigable business community. That is what we believe will change the continent, and that is what we report on. With hard-hitting investigations, innovative analysis and deep dives into countries and sectors, The Africa Report delivers the insight you need.

View subscription options